Yesh’s Thoughts: Don’t let the records deceive you this year. The Pinstripe Bowl is actually a matchup between two evenly-matched teams. Actually, if it were up to me to decide, I would say that 6-6 Iowa State had a much better season than 8-4 Rutgers. Let’s just take a step back and see what it took to get Iowa State to a bowl this year. They played 5 currently ranked teams, 7 game-ranked teams, and 11 AQ teams (okay, maybe UConn shouldn’t count towards that). They progressed tremendously as the year moved on and went from barely beating Iowa State to knocking off Oklahoma State. Don’t underestimate them. At this point, they are a good, very well-coached football team.
Rutgers, on the other hand, basically bought their good season. They beat exactly 1 team that is bowl eligible: 6-6 Pitt. They have a great receiver in Mohamed Sanu and should be a good team with some other talent at the skill positions, but they just haven’t played like it this year. At all. The talent is there so anything can happen, but based on their seasons I would expect Iowa State to win in a close game. Still, this game could be exciting and if last year’s Pinstripe Bowl is any indication, these teams will show up to play.
I was always taught that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. I’m going to ignore that and talk about Mississippi State. This team flat-out does not deserve to be in a bowl. Period. Why not? Let’s look how they got there. They just barely won their 6 games. They beat 4 absolute creampuffs in nonconference play. The played Memphis (routinely one of the worst teams in the country), UAB (who isn’t far behind), Louisiana Tech, and FCS Tennessee-Martin. And I’m sure they didn’t plan on Louisiana Tech being WAC champions or even remotely talented. They also beat 2 SEC schools-the worst two on their schedule who combined for a grand total of 2 conference wins. This team bought their way into a bowl game and already have an even worse OOC schedule lined up for next year. They will play 2 FCS schools and 2 Sun Belt schools. This isn’t a rant on the SEC or anything, this is just calling out one particular school for blatantly gutless OOC scheduling.
That being said, this could be a good game. Mississippi State is more talented than Wake Forest, but the Demon Deacons have been playing up all year. They beat Florida State and played both Clemson and Notre Dame close. Wake Forest overachieved all year long and did very well just to make a bowl game. They have some bad losses and some embarrassingly close wins against bad teams, but this game looks like it has all of the makings for an underdog playing up and the favorite playing down. I’m hoping for a game that’s close and exciting, even if it won’t be the highest caliber of football.
Prospects to Watch
Mohamed Sanu, WR Rutgers
Sanu has good height with an above average build for the WR position and it shows, with his physciality and willingness to take on contact. Sanu is one of the most versatile WR’s in the country, lining up at multiple positions on offense, as well as being utilized in the running game frequently, and has even been used as a QB every once in a while.
Follows his blocks well on short throws, and is not afraid of working across the middle of the field, and when the ball is thrown his way he is has big strong hands, and goes up and snatches the ball out of the air, instead of letting it travel to him.
He is young in the position, as he moved from safety, and has room to grow in his knowledge of the position. Not the most explosive receiver off the line, and needs to learn to set moves up early, instead of using his size to always create the separation.
Needs the combine to show his 40 time and determine where he will be drafted, but I see him as having all the physical tools to be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL.
NFL Fans that Need to Watch: Rams, Vikings, Jaguars, Browns
Projections: Late 1st Early 2nd
Kelechi Osemele, OL Iowa State
You remember what I wrote about Matt Reynolds? Well that applies here as well, except that Osemele is stronger, better built, and has a higher ceiling.
He has elite level strength, size, and reach, with the ability to physically overpower and overwhelm defensive lineman. Has lined up at LT all season for the Cyclones, but should move to OG in the NFL, and flourish.
Osemele has no problem getting off the ball, getting an initial block, then getting to the second level and getting another block on a LB or DB. He always finishes his blocks, and has a nasty streak in him.
The biggest concerns about Kelechi are durability and conditioning. Yet fixing one will fix both, and getting in good NFL level playing shape should help keep his troubled ankle healthy.
NFL Fans that Need to Watch: Chargers, Bears, Titans, Lions, Bengals
Projections: 2nd Round
Fletcher Cox, DT Mississippi St
Fletcher is a slightly undersized DT that has come on really strong the latter half of the season. He is a nice combination of speed and strength and loves to get up field and make plays.
He is a pure penetrating run stopper and pass rusher, who has not learned how to hold up blockers at the line of scrimmage and needs time to grow.
Cox has a huge upside and as not only a pass rushing interior lineman, but as an every down DT that can wreak havoc in the running game as well.
He plays too high at times and needs to learn to use his strong base as leverage and not just relying on his natural strength and quickness.
When he gets up field, he can get himself out of position, and open up the defense to big plays.
NFL Fans that Need to Watch: Patriots, Packers, Dolphins, Chiefs
Projections: Late 1st Early 2nd
Other Prospects to Watch:
Kyle Wilbur, OLB Wake Forest
Leg injury has limited him and dropped his stock quite a bit and though you can’t technically watch him in this matchup, you could see him lining up on Sundays to help with special teams.